Thursday, January 29, 2015

Just a quick update

Just a quick recap of the events leading up to today:
On June 21st of 2013, Calgary and many surrounding areas were inundated by a vast quantity of water in the form of spring melt run off as well as pretty heavy rainfall in the mountains. The result was pretty horrible. My main floor condo was flooded (7ft or so of water filled it almost to the ceiling) and I lost pretty much everything I owned.
It is now 19 months later and I am still not back in. I came close to moving back in October last year, but there was a mysterious water leak that showed up that destroyed my hardwood floor and required that all of the base kitchen cabinets be removed. The source of this water was never found, but possible sources were eliminated. The only remaining cause is human error & or negligence on the part of the contractor.
The good news is that we now have a new contractor & they will be starting next week. The cabinets are to be installed the week of Feb 16th and the flooring will go in 5 days after that. IF everything goes according to plan, I could very possibly be moving back home by the first week of March. Some good news for a change.

In the studio, not much news to report. I was busy making open baking/serving dishes last Sunday, and here is a shot of a few drying their bottoms on the plaster and one that is all handled and just hanging out. I made about 8 of these of varying sizes and shapes. They are mostly round with an altered/pinched rim, but I did do a couple square ones. I do like the round ones the best. These would be good for a shepherd's pie, mashed potatoes, a deep apple crisp, stuffing, anything really.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Production progress and plastic chasing

Setting goals does seem to work. I spent the weekend in the studio ( I managed a solid 12 hours) and was able to trim and throw way more than I normally would. I have a list of items that I will need to have for next fall which has helped me immensely. I know what I need to make now. In the past, I would walk into the studio and would not get down to business right away as I did not know what I wanted to make, or should make. This solves that problem. Now I just need to decide which items to make that are on the list. I managed to bang out some shallow baking/serving dishes. At first I was going to make them a bit square, but thought they looked contrived, so I stuck with the round ones and altered the rims a bit. I am continuing to try to make a new butter dish form. The way I make them is to throw the lid as a closed form and measure the outer diameter, then the base is thrown and I use the measurement from the lid to determine where to place the seat that will accept the lid. The only difference with these dishes is that the area where you would put your butter is actually a 2.5" - 3" tall cylinder that the dome lid fits over. The idea is that when people use a traditional butter dome and scrape their knife off, butter gets into the lid seat and then the lid gets all buttery and it can't be placed on the counter/table without getting butter all over the place. I am hoping that this will allow people to still clean off their knife without gumming up the lid. The trick is getting the lid to fit properly. I have added a little ledge right at the base of the butter reservoir that acts as a stop for the lid. I want to glaze all but the base of the lid and it's seat and didn't want it to accidentally move when being loaded into the kiln and becoming permanently welded to the base. This little ledge will hopefully help keep the lid seated properly during the glaze firing. So far I have made 6 of these new dishes and the proof will be in the glazing.The rest of the time I was throwing bakers, salt and pepper shakers, trimming, attaching handles and generally just chasing plastic around as things were drying.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Whittling down my list of things to make

I spent the day in the studio on Sunday from 9am to 4pm and as you can see, it was a day spent assembling teapots and throwing cups, bowls, pitchers and platters. I also managed to get 3 other large platters trimmed. Because these platters are in the 16 - 18 inch range in diameter, I decided to punch holes in the foot ring to allow for a cord or wire loop to be added to allow the eventual owner to hang on their wall as ART as well as being a functional piece. Saturday was spent working at Ceramics Canada and I picked up 3 boxes of polar ice porcelain and a 44lb bag of Plainsman stoneware clear base. This is a new glaze product that Plainsman has developed and it is absolutely crystal clear. It works amazingly on the new polar ice body and it accepts mason stains really nice and will allow for a huge range of colours that I have not been able to use, until now. I am thinking tangerine, bright yellow, turquoise, red, purple, and then various concentrations of each one so that I have a nice range to choose from. The clear we have in the studio is a bit yellow, which is OK if you are only using stoneware bodies, but on a truly white porcelain, you don't want that, so I bit the bullet and will use Plainsman's clear base instead.
I am well on my way to my goal of 1200 pots before November this year. Since Dec 26, I have 105 pots thrown and in various stages of completion. That works out to 8.75 % of my goal.
I managed to pull a muscle in my back on the weekend, so I hope it resolves itself  before next weekend so I can plow ahead and maybe get 12 - 15 % of my goal achieved. If I can hit that 25% mark by the end of February, then it should be "easy" sailing from here on out. The true test will be in the glazing of course. This is the last stage where disaster can strike (unless you count packing breakage), so I am trying to count as few chickens as possible until they all hatch. It seems that I am focusing on those easy to knock out forms, like cups and bowls, but I know there are time sucking forms that I need to get making more of, like casseroles, more teapots, creamers and sugars (that match), etc that involve throwing multiple pots to make one pot (like the lids and spouts etc). Don't even get me started on handles, they are simple to make, but again, a time sucker when it comes to attaching them. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Village at night

I picked up some battery operated tea lights and hot glued them into place last night. So here is the completed village all lit up. The lights flicker and it kinda makes it look like all the little houses are on fire inside.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How many pots?

I mentioned previously (twice actually, due to a moment of senility), that after 14 years of potting, I am finally thinking hard about putting on my big girl pottery pants and entering a large craft show next fall. I have spent the intervening time thinking about just how many pots I will need to have for this endeavor and then asking myself just how many do I think I can actually make. Unfortunately, the answer is not coming easily to either of these questions.
Over this past holiday season, I spent quite a bit of time in the studio (8.5 "days" solid - from 9:30 am to 2 or 3 pm). When I say I spent a day in the studio, that seems to average out to about 4 - 6 hours. Some days I need to get other stuff done, like laundry, getting gas, sleeping etc. In this time, I think I managed to make 29 mugs, but then I knocked one off the ware board and I only had 28 to show for it. I made four 5lb casseroles, but then I had to make another lid as I managed to trim right through the first one, so now we are at 3 casseroles until I get the 2nd lid to fit, if at all. I also made some small bowls (17 or so), so the total pots thrown count is at about 47 after taking into account the destruction I wreaked on a few pots. I did fire a bunch of work, but that was made over a period of a month or 2, so I am not counting it as work made during this time. I destroyed a bit of work through negligent handling on my part, like letting the big porcelain bowl dry way too fast and probably not trimming the foot enough (upon inspection it was probably 1/2 an inch thick down there).
The question is, can I actually physically DO it? can I make enough, well enough to get in the show and then will I actually be able to sell it all. That is the other side of the teeter-totter. I could potentially have enough work, but then what if I don't SELL enough? There seems to be a whole lot of uncertainty going on here. I still need to account for the time spent decorating. I do a LOT of detailed sgrafitto on some of my work, but for this show I think I will need to pare it down and really think hard about how much work should be committed to this torture.
I have even taken this question to the level of creating a stock list and estimating how many of each type of pot I could conceivably need to have on hand. I think I got a bit out of control there. The first estimate was in the range of 1800 pots. I revisited the list to see where I should pare my expectations down and it came in at just over 1500. The show that I am really thinking hard about entering takes place over 4 days and each day is approximately 12 hours long, You need enough work to not sell out early, the show organizers probably frown on empty booths, but you don't want to over produce to the point where you are packing up almost as much as you brought with you. I have a feeling my issues will be in making enough, not making too much. I don't think I could actually make that many pots even if I didn't sleep or eat or work at my other jobs. My hands and back can only take so much. I'm only 43, but my right hand is starting to get stiff and achy in the mornings and well, potters know about sore backs, especially if you sit at your wheel instead of standing.
It looks like every moment I have where I am not working elsewhere will be spent at the wheel for the next foreseeable future. I just did the math, and I will need 18.75 hours to make 600 cups. I am by no means a speedy potter, I think that works out to 32 an hour. I have been told that when my instructor was making production pots, he would throw at least a 100 mugs an hour. We can't all be superstars I guess. I can only hope that the pots I DO make are the best pots that I CAN make. 
~~~~~~~THIS JUST IN !~~~~~~~~~~~
I just did a quick guestimate - Starting this week, if I only spend 6 hours in the studio from now until just before the sale, there will be about 282 hours for me to get all this done. I tried to conservatively guess how many of each form I can make in an hour and it looks like I can THROW all that I need in just over 135 hours, leaving 147 hours for everything else. Then I calculated how much time I would need for the carving, knowing that I will need to speed the process up, I guessed at how many pots I could carve in an hour and guess what, I came to 147.17 hours. So, I need to find a couple extra hours a week to fit in trimming, glazing and loading kilns, but it looks like it might just be possible...if my body doesn't fall apart first that is.

Of course, somewhere during this time I will be moving back to my condo, so I will lose some time, but there is the 2 months in the summer where I don't work on Saturdays, so I gain a bunch of hours too...

I have a feeling this is just a bunch of whishful thinking....

My muscles hurt

I began the 2nd day of the new year with the notion that if I cleaned up my shelves at the studio, I would have lots of room to put all my pots in progress. During this moment of purging insanity, I found all kinds of dried up clay, bags of trimmings and slop. What to do? Pug it I guess. We had a small Shimpo pug mill donated to the studio a while ago (donated because they lost the key and couldn't make it go, but we got it fixed to run on a switch instead). Anyway, I pugged all my stoneware scraps and lumps up and it turns out I had over 60lbs of clay just wasting space on my shelves, but now it is fairly usable. Still quite wet, so I will need to age it a bit. I also reclaimed about 25 kilos of the polar ice clay by hand, the pug mill would have ruined it. Needless to say, my arms and abs (such as they are) are a bit sore with all the wedging and pugging. That little pug mill is on a table that is a bit too tall so you can't use your body mass to push down on the plunger, you need to hang off the handle a bit like a monkey, so ya, my arms are sore. Now I can see what I am working on, I can see where I have been and maybe a little of where I need to go.